Patriots defeat Ravens 30-23 to rise back to top of AFC
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots are once again the sole team leading the AFC at the end of Week 14 of the regular season.
Despite blowing a 20-point lead at halftime, the Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens 30-23 during a Monday Night Football match-up at Gillette Stadium.
“I thought our guys really hung in there," Head Coach Bill Belichick said after the game. "It wasn’t perfect...but we kept battling and made some big plays in all areas of the game in the end there. We had to make them, and that’s the important thing, is to come out of here with a win.”
The Patriots struggled to find consistently, as they opened the game with a sack, followed by a safety, and a blocked field goal attempt shortly after. Then came a pair of fumbles by special teams players Cyrus Jones and Matthew Slater, as well as Tom Brady's second interception of the season.
By the end of the third quarter, the Patriots were hanging on to a 6-point lead.
“I think there were some plays...we all would’ve had back, but [the Ravens are] a competitive team," Brady said. "They force you into some errors, and it was great to finish the game with the ball in our hands. We always love doing that.”
After successfully recovering an onside kick toward the end of the fourth quarter, the Patriots maintained possession as the game clock wound down, improving the team's record to 11-2.
The Patriots weren't only without Rob Gronkowksi, who's still recovering from back surgery, but also Danny Amendola, who suffered an ankle injury last week against the Los Angeles Rams.
It's unclear how serious his injury is at this point, but the wide receiver was not seen at the stadium Monday night.
However, missing two key offensive players left room for several others to share the wealth.
LeGarrette Blount contributed the first touchdown of the game, his 14th of the season, tying the franchise record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season.
Blount also surpassed a personal record, running 1,029 yards on the season - so far.
In the second quarter, rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season. After the game, he acknowledged the team's shortcomings, but praised how those were overcome.
“I think what’s most important tonight is that we played as a team even when we dealt with adversity we still stuck together, stayed focused and did enough to win the game," he said.
Martellus Bennett answered the call shortly after halftime, making a 19-yard touchdown play with a pass that looked impossible to catch.
But after the game, he had no doubts the ball was his.
“I had it," he said. "Sometimes, you know, there’s one slice of pizza left, and there’s two hands reaching in the box, I’m always going to get the last slice. Unless it’s my wife’s hand, then I’ll let her get it. That’s only because I love her.”
Finally, the literal biggest and possibly most memorable play came late in the fourth quarter, with a 79-yard touchdown pass and run from Brady to Chris Hogan.
"Tom made a great throw and I think it was the time and the point in the game where we needed someone to step up and make a big play," he said after the game. "I was just happy I was able to do that for this team.”
So while the game plan wasn't always pretty, it was effective, as the Patriots kept the Ravens at bay when it mattered most.
Brady picked up a few records of his own, throwing 25 for 38, for 406 yards, his ninth 400-yard game of his career.
Still, after the game, he was looking for ways to improve.
“We kind of had some self-inflicted errors out there," Brady said. "There were plenty of those, but I’m glad we found a way to win.”
The Patriots travel to Denver next week to take on the Broncos. Kickoff is at 4:25 on Sunday.